Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Prediction: Croatia vs Slovakia

Veselin Trajkovic in Free Soccer Predictions 9 Oct 2021

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Verdict: Home win

Best odds: 4/9

Bookmaker: Betfair

On Monday evening, Croatia will welcome Slovakia at the Gradski Vrt Stadium in Osijek in the eighth round of Group H of the World Cup qualifications in the UEFA zone.

Croatia

Having reached the World Cup final in 2018 and being a formidable opponent to anyone for years, Croatia don’t really strike fear into other teams anymore. The most obvious reason for their decline is the fact that the players whe carried their game for a long time have reached the twilight of their careers. Luka Modric is 36, Ivan Rakitic 33, and 35-year-old Mario Mandzukic retired from international football after the 2018 tournament in Russia. He retired completely last month.

Be that as it may, Croatia are still at the top of their qualifying group, with 16 points from seven matches. Second-place Russia have the same tally, and there is a six-point gap to Slovenia in third. A win in Osijek would go a long way in getting Zlatko Dalic’s team within the sight of Qatar.

After going out of the Euros at the hands of Spain in the round of 16, Croatia played a goalless draw away to Russia at the start of September, beat Slovakia away by 0-1 and Slovenia at home by 3-0. On Friday, they beat Cyprus away by 0-3, which means they would be welcoming Slovakia in good spirits, if there weren’t a few injury issues to bother them.

Team News

Dalic won’t be able to call upon the experience of Dejan Lovren, or the 26-year-old right-back, Josip Juranovic. Domagoj Vida, Lovren’s long-term centre-back partner, was left on the bench in Cyprus, but in light of the crisis, Dalic might choose to risk him from the start this time, with Duje Caleta-Car by his side.

There will, however, be no goalkeeper Ivica Ivusic or forward Mislav Orsic.

Modric will be pulling the strings from midfield, supported by Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic and Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic. Upfront, Andrej Kramaric should lead the line with Ivan Perisic and Nikola Vlasic on his flanks.

Slovakia

Slovakia surprised Poland in their Euro opener but could do no more. They were beaten by Sweden and Spain and their involvement in the tournament ended after the group stages.

In September, they drew 1-1 away to Slovenia before getting beaten by Croatia at home, though they bounced back with a 2-0 home triumph over Cyprus. This week, they lost 1-0 away to Russia, and their chances of reaching Qatar next year are getting slimmer.

At the moment, Stefan Tarkovic’s side are in fourth place, seven points behind Croatia and Russia with just three matches to go, which obviously means they have to get a result here or face mathematical certainty of missing out on the World Cup.

Team News

Wingers Robert Mak and Vladimir Weiss, midfielder Jakub Hromada and centre-back Martin Valjent were all unable to join the squad for this international break through different injuries. Midfielder Stanislav Lobotka was initially on the list but was later forced to drop out.

The rest of the squad are fully fit and available for selection, and it remains to be seen if Tarkovic goes with the same lineup that faced Russia, or opts to make changes in search of a better result in this crucial fixture.

Conclusion

With all due respect to Slovakia, it’s hard to imagine Croatia not taking this chance to mathematically secure a top-two finish in the group.

Verdict: Home win

Best odds: 4/9

Bookmaker: Betfair

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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